Casting an eye over the Telegraph home page a moment ago I spotted a typo which encapsulates the importance of chunking as an intellectual (i.e. human) process in the rendering of news online.
The above chunk on the homepage points to the following story within the site.
There’s nothing wrong with the original title or sub-header. There is plenty of space on this page to provide a lengthy, indicative title, and a thorough description of the story in the sub-header underneath.
But the homepage can’t offer this story so much space, or certainly not if the font is to be of a legible size.
So it’s left to the copy editor to adequately summarise this information in such a way that the essence of the story is conveyed. Not always an easy job.
Though there is clearly a mistake here (we’re all human, after all), what this process nonetheless demonstrates is that this sort of job cannot be automated – it has to involve human input, as no algorithm no matter how sophisticated, is yet capable of dealing with formal grammar. And even if we do get to a stage where programmes can interpret language in a meaningful and consistent way, they will still lack the ability to connect with the reader in an intuitive way. Which may be the only way to express a complex story in the small amount of space many stories can claim on a home page.
While it’s not necessarily the journalist who undertakes chunking like this when they file a story, it is certainly an important consideration when it comes to putting together amateur news sites, blogs, or microblog teasers.